By PAUL DELANEY
It took six matches and a load of frustration but finally Medical Lake broke through into the volleyball win column last Saturday.
With the help of some coaching strategy the Cardinals rallied to defeat Liberty of the Bi-County 2B 3-1 at home. After dropping the first set in a big way 12-25, Medical Lake won the next three 25-21, 25-16, 25-22.s
“We got ourselves a win, we got ourselves a victory,” an obviously happy head coach Julie Smith said. “It was quite exciting.”
In the Liberty win Rachel Crofoot had 15 assists and Becky Troutt added 13 kills. Amarah Nicholson also set a school record for blocks with nine.
Smith said it was another 3-0 non-league loss Thursday to Lind-Ritzville/Sprague that appeared to be the turning point. The Cards fell 23-25, 16-25 and 18-25 to the Broncos. Crofoot added eight assists while Troutt pitched in with six kills.
“We got a little taste of it but it was bittersweet,” she said. “We didn't let 7-10 points go by before we made another point, we would only let three or four go by and get it back.”
In the past they might let three or four points get to them. But a series of mental toughness drills Smith had introduced into practice have hopefully helped develop a new mindset. “When you're not succeeding the confidence is hard to force.”
Smith would set a goal of scoring a certain number of points in a given time. If the team did not reach that goal they did it over, and over.
“It's that point where you break and say, ‘OK you know what, we're going to do this now,'” Smith said.
The mindset changed: “We have to snap out of it or we're going to have to endure this the rest of the season,” Smith explained. “They made that decision that OK, we're going to fight, we're going to win, we're not going to let things happen to us.”
It was about a week ago Smith told her players: “No more Mister Nice Guy.” The intensity of the practices would increase.
“It's for your benefit even though you're not going to like some of it and you're not going to like some of the consequences,” Smith told her players.
The Cardinals' opening set loss prompted Smith to stage what she called “a little pow-wow.” Emerging from that session, Smith kept the lineup the same and something just clicked. Medical Lake reeled off three straight set victories.
After a slow start where the teams traded points, Medical Lake got on a roll.
The Cards played at Freeman this past Tuesday in a return to Northeast A League play and continue with a match at Newport tonight at 7 p.m.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.